The PlayStation Vita officially launches in North America, Europe, Latin America, Australasia, the Middle East, and Africa today. To mark the worldwide rollout of the handheld, Sony's senior vice president of PlayStation brand marketing Guy Longworth spoke with GameSpot to make a last-minute push for the system launch and answer questions about the First Edition Bundle, customer adoption of the system's 3G features, the decision to use proprietary memory cards for the Vita, and more.
GameSpot: What are you looking at to determine if the international launch is a success?
Guy Longworth: PlayStation Vita is a long-term platform for us, so we're in this for the long term. We see it as a 5- to 10-year platform, and we'll look at the success on a by-market and then at a total international level in 12 and 18 and 24 months' time to see how we're doing. Obviously we want to get off to a good start, but we're in this for the long term, and we think that the value proposition that was put together is really going to resonate with core gamers and casual gamers over time. So it's a long-term play for us.
GS: You took a novel tack to launching hardware, with the First Edition Bundle allowing some gamers to get their hands on the hardware a week early. How has the First Edition Bundle promotion gone so far?
GL: It went great. We sold out our prelaunch bundles, so we're excited about that. We got a great response to it.
GS: What are the strongest sellers out of the gate from the First Edition Bundle week?
GL: The best-selling so far is Uncharted: Golden Abyss. It's been warmly received, and that really doesn't surprise us given the popularity of that franchise with our core consumers. There are a number of others that appear to be doing well: Little Deviants, Hot Shots Golf, Mod Nation Racers… It's very early days, but Uncharted is top of the charts so far.
GS: You were quoted in a Eurogamer interview saying Naughty Dog would be making games for PS Vita, but their community manager has since publicly stated they had no plans for that. Can you straighten this out?
GL: I think I was slightly misquoted. I was asked the question which studios will be making games for Vita, and my answer to that question was, "A lot of our studios." I might have said "all" by mistake--that's not impossible. But a large number of our studios are currently making Vita games is the fact of the matter. Naughty Dog currently aren't. So if I caused any confusion, I'm sorry about that.
GS: What was the thinking behind going with proprietary memory cards and the pricing behind them?
GL: There are many different types of memory out there, and what we have is a very high-end piece of flash memory that comes in an extraordinarily small size. What we're trying to do is make sure that the gamer has the best possible experience and the proprietary memory we think gives gamers the best possible experience because we can very much control that memory and make sure it's the highest possible quality.
GS: How is the postlaunch software lineup shaping up?
GL: We've got an incredible lineup of first- and third-party games this year. At launch we've got 26 titles, and there are currently over 100 titles in development worldwide, meaning we're going to have compelling content right throughout the year. You're going to have a whole range of titles coming out, including Ruin, Little Big Planet, and then from third parties, all the big brands are going to be there: Street Fighter, Assassin's Creed, BioShock, Mortal Kombat, and, of course, Call of Duty.
GS: Why aren't PS One Classics or PS2 titles from the PlayStation Network available at launch?
GL: At the moment we're very much focused on getting our new first-party lineup and third-party lineup out there and available for consumers. So that's our focus right now.
GS: Is the Vita competing with the iPhone, Android, and tablets?
GL: What's happened is these new devices have introduced a whole bunch of people to gaming who haven't been in gaming before. That's good news. The pie is growing. In terms of the experiences that people get from an iPhone, an Android device, or a tablet, it's a relatively casual experience, a limited gaming experience for gamers. With PlayStation Vita, what you have is an incredibly immersive gaming experience given the functionality of the product, the franchises and games coming out. And it's really like having a home console in your pocket; it's like having a PlayStation 3 and taking it with you. The experience the PS Vita offers is night and day from the experiences you can get on a tablet, an Android phone, or an iPhone.
GS: How has the 3G adoption been?
GL: We wouldn't disclose that at this stage. We're in the very early stages of launch. But we're very encouraged by the reaction we've had with people looking at the 3G version. I think they realize by taking 3G, it means you can basically play wherever you want to, whenever you want to, and be connected the whole time. And not just through the games but also to your social media with the apps we have like Facebook and Twitter. Consumers are going to look at that and realize that it's something that makes a lot of sense to have now, and also for the future. I think it really future-proofs them in terms of some of the things that will come down the line in terms of gaming experiences that will be possible through 3G, to be able to play online with your friends. We think gamers are understanding that, but we'll wait and see what happens.
GS: The PSP came out in 2005, so it's nearing seven years old, and its successor is launching. Should we expect it to be phased out soon, or do you see it as having a lot of life left in it?
GL: Well, the PSP is still a great entry-level device for people who want a handheld gaming experience. PS Vita is a revolutionary game-changing experience. It's very different. I think for a period of time both will live comfortably next to each other in the same way PS3 and PS2 have lived comfortably together for a period of time. It's an entry point for people into the PlayStation handheld experience at a relatively modest entry price with a wide range of content, so we expect it to be around for a period of time.